The University of California has begun work to deploy an integrated payroll and human resource system across all 10 campuses and five medical centers to streamline business operations and save money.
Rolling out a new system across the entire University is a daunting project, but the biggest challenge isn’t technological, it is the operational and cultural shift that is integral to the project’s success: For the first time in UC’s history, every campus and medical center will follow a single set of standardized business policies and practices for payroll, Human Resources (HR) and academic personnel.
The Payroll Personnel System (PPS) Initiative has set an ambitious January 2013 timetable for that sweeping change to ensure that UC has aligned its business practices when the first wave of campuses begins using the new payroll and HR platforms.
“Definitely, one of the biggest challenges is going to be the organizational change and systemwide standardization,” said Anthony Lo, project director. “We have people from every UC location involved in redesigning our business processes to be sure that all of the University’s diverse needs are met.”
Optimizing Systems Across UC
Campuses are used to being able to customize their systems and processes, he said, but adopting uniform ways of working is going to reap huge dividends for UC as a whole, and for each location.
There are 11 different versions of the current Payroll Personnel System running across UC, Lo said. All of them have been in use for nearly 30 years, and lack the basic functionality of modern payroll and HR systems.
The PPS Initiative is one of the top priorities for UC’s Working Smarter Initiative because it has significant opportunities for improving operational services while reducing costs.
“We have a tremendous amount of redundancy and inefficiency in the workload,” he said. “The current system, with its 11 different variations, means there is no easy way to look at employee data holistically. Reconciling information from across UC is extremely cumbersome and time-consuming.
“And if a federal regulation changes, we have to Band-aid it on to the old platform, along with all the other Band-aids that we’ve put on over the last 30 years. With eleven different variations of PPS running across the University, that scenario doesn’t happen just once, but multiple times.”
At UCLA, which along with its medical center, will be among the first campuses to use the new system, administrators have created a campus-level advisory group to provide feedback on the proposed new business processes as they are developed.
“This project is a huge undertaking,” said UCLA Associate Vice Chancellor Allison Baird-James, a member of the project’s university-wide Management Workgroup. “But it presents a significant opportunity to make things more efficient and streamlined.”
UC San Diego and the UC San Diego Health System also volunteered to be among the first locations to go live with the new system in January 2013.
“We have a great team of people to make this happen,” said Kelly Maheu, UCSD’s director of Academic Compensation and Data Reporting, who is among those working to design common systemwide business processes. “The main challenge is an extremely aggressive timeline for the amount of work that has to happen. But people here at UCSD are eager to jump in, so we know this project will be successful.”
The other first-wave locations include UC Merced, UC Santa Cruz, and UC’s Office of the President.
UC Santa Cruz was already planning to deploy the same Oracle American Inc. software, so they jumped at the chance to be part of the first wave, said Charlotte Moreno, assistant vice chancellor of Staff Human Resources.
“We’re familiar with the system, and really eager to implement it,” Moreno said. “The magnitude of this project is something we haven’t seen at UC before, and that can be a little challenging initially. But the power of this technology really will enhance our work.”
Among other things, the new tools will allow HR staff to switch from cumbersome, paper-based processes to electronic ones that can easily track performance management, compliance with regulatory requirements, and employee leaves, she said.
Laying the Groundwork
UC administrators first began laying the groundwork for the new platform in 2009, after a university-wide assessment found that payroll system needed replacing.
“It’s an antiquated system that is increasingly difficult to maintain and update to meet business needs,” Lo said. “Everyone realizes that the current system presents a real risk to the University and must be replaced.”
After analyzing UC’s business needs, the University began soliciting bids for new technology solutions earlier this year. In late August, it contracted with Oracle to deploy its hosted PeopleSoft Payroll and Human Capital Management suite.
Establishing Best Business Practices
UC has since moved quickly on several fronts to keep the momentum going. The Oracle team is in place, and UC experts in payroll, HR, academic personnel, benefits and IT spent much of September learning about the capabilities of the technology platforms.
Over the next six months, core project teams will design a new set of business processes that meet the needs of every UC location, while still capturing the efficiencies and streamlining afforded by the new technologies, Lo said.
The technology will be phased in for the other campuses over the following two years.
Subsequent phases of the project include deploying a new time and attendance system, and — in the third and final phase — an integrated portal and data warehouse.
The end result — in roughly four years — will be a system that gives UC employees ready access to information about their jobs and employment, and the ability to make changes to their personal data online.
Payroll processing will be real-time, automated, efficient and accurate. HR, payroll and academic personnel transactional processes will be simplified and consistent across UC locations, enabling staff to spend more time on strategic issues and less time on basic administrative processing activities.
UC managers will be able to initiate personnel transactions online and will have access to information for workforce planning and decision support. The new decision support capabilities will also allow the University to respond more quickly to changing workforce needs.
Like other team members, Maheu is so committed to the project’s success that she has agreed to spend three days a week in Oakland over the next six weeks, and additional blocks of time in the coming months, despite having two teenagers at home in San Diego.
It will all be worth it when the project is complete, she said.
Reports that now take days or weeks to generate will be virtually automatic — freeing up UCSD to do more forward-looking analyses.
“From what I’ve seen, there are some wonderful tools that will save every campus an enormous amount of time,” Maheu said. “We will be able to focus more effort on analytical studies instead of spending so much time on reactional, ad hoc reporting. That’s really important for the core mission of the University.”